Other Writings

The Trip to Paradise and Alvin Stardeath

Leaving Egypt took will power and for the last days I was singing, 'Let my people go' in my head – which actually might have a political bias in the original song which I wouldn't agree with (if I actually knew the song well) but nevertheless, all politics aside, that one line was playing on a loop in my mind.

My reasons for leaving can be read about here: http://www.writerscentre.blogspot.co.uk/2014/10/winter-news.html so let's deal with the physical and emotional what and how of the actual doing of it.

I started preparing for departure a month earlier as I needed to tell my landlord and then the cleaner Samira and then aside from all the practical things that had to be done I was also having to cope with Samira's emotional breakdowns as the date got closer; with her tears sometimes starting before she'd even stepped into the flat. I was also still running my courses, editing and doing a number of other things whilst back at home I got rid of huge amounts of possessions until the last 3 days I was sleeping on a bare mattress with a veil over me for a sheet. Leaving Egypt is also costly as I ended up giving hoddeya to all and sundry that have been in any kind of service so that a manner of goodwill was left – and with some it was almost a matter of money gifts warding off their evil eye.

Three days before I left Egypt my mobile was stolen from the cafe at the Opera House and I lost my Egyptian telephone number that I had had for 7 years, all my numbers stored for the last 7 years and the phone itself that I had had for 3 years and was a cheap cheerful Chinese model; pink with hearts. After an initial upset about this I then decided it was somewhat of a blessing and a sign that the new was very much with me and the past was the past.

The last week or so before I travelled was all about trying to minimise my personal belongings to fit into 2 suitcases and this proved to be a psychological ordeal - exacerbated I believe by flashbacks to an acid trip in Kho Panghan where I was unable to pack a bag and was filmed by a man making a 'Say no to drugs' video. I finally finished the packing and was left with two very heavy suitcases to pull along and a sports bag to carry on my shoulder – this was actually an impossibility in all events.

The morning of the travel actually arrived and I had a driver booked that is a real gem and does a type of fast track service all the way to passport control. As we left my street at 6.30am I thought thank god that this is the last time I will hear the 'car parking' guy shouting manically, or wake up to the ongoing car horns, or the street arguments, or in the middle of the night to the zibella guy brushing the rubbish pointlessly to nowhere; sweep sweep sweep on and on for one hour. I felt a very faint sentimentality for the kushk guys, especially the one who always claps his hands when he is nervous in any way, like a fearful seal beached in a Cairo road.

So the practicalities of the travel itself began. At the madness of Cairo airport one is thankful for the slackness of Egypt Air but also disconcerted as bags are allowed through overweight, extra bags are allowed on board, the security check is half hearted, my passport and boarding card unexamined by the woman checking them as we waited at the gate. It doesn't give one a huge confidence in the state of the aircraft itself – but that is where one has to just hand over trust as air travel is a necessary mode of transport in most international journeys.

In the terminal and on the plane one wonders how certain people have even got that far – they don't even know if they are at the right gate, they can't work out their seat number, they don't understand how to put on the seatbelt. Given that it was a flight to UK with many British citizens so understanding the language completely is a curse as well as blessing; the two chav guys who talked about washing and ironing clothes, speaking in horrible loud Kentish accents and swearing a lot. What on earth were they doing in Cairo? Laying pipelines? Then there was the not so old and not so immobile woman who was relishing her wheelchair service and talking about everything and anything loudly – even about her ear phones and then her Diet Coke as her compatriots listened to her empathically. I realised, not for the first time, that I am angered by people that yawn loudly and also that cough in a seeming affected way. Anyway, I sat comfortably enough in my seat, did my meditative breathing every time I felt anxious about the flying and watched one of my favourite films; Cleopatra – with Eizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton.

We landed 10 minutes late at Heathrow and given that I then only had 1 hour to go through passport control, retrieve luggage, somehow carry it and get to the National Express station I wasn't overly hopeful. It transpired that we all had to first walk for about 10 minutes to reach passport control, the bags were then slow to come round on the belt and I was then stopped momentarily by Customs. Finally I was free of all procedures and started to run as well as I could pushing my burdened trolley along and trying to find the National Express station which involved a long walk and then wait for lifts to go down a level only to then find that was another bus station and having to then go back to another level – I finally arrived at the National Express area – a crazed person shouting 'I'm coming through!' as I ran haphazardly with my trolley. I got to the coach bay with 5 minutes to spare before the coach departure time. And then the problems began. The coach I was booked on due to depart at 1.50pm did not arrive, the staff kept saying it was delayed until at 2.45pm they said that the driver had 'disappeared' and was out of all radio contact. At 3pm they said they would put the Cornwall destination passengers on the Bristol bus, after getting us to queue for it they then said they were not doing that. They then said they would 'rail' us, meaning they would buy train tickets for our destinations and take us to the train station by coach. However, as I had my heavy cases which were impossible to manoeuvre without a trolley to take them all I said it would be better for me by coach as rail travel involved steps, stairs and other difficult negotiations. After a lot of waiting and talks I was given a ticket for the 4.55pm coach and told that I was guaranteed my seat and that the coach was running, my luggage was fine to take and all was well and they gave me £10 to spend whilst I was waiting. The coach did indeed arrive on time and one of the platform staff ensured I was at the front of the queue – then the driver opened the gate and inspected my ticket and then became weird about the authenticity of my ticket (which had been issued only 30mins before by the organisation that employs him) and he looked at my luggage and the conversation went something like this:

Him: Oh no, no, you're not taking that, no.
Me: Why? It's only 2 cases.
Him: No, no, no.
Me: I don't understand.
Him: You're not taking those, they aren't allowed and there's no room.
Me: But everyone is allowed 2 cases and I have a ticket for the bus issued by the company themselves and they said everything was fine.
Him: Look, it isn't your job to tell me how things work, this is my bus (points to rules on back of ticket) It says here you aren't allowed more than 1 case (this is a lie as it says 2 medium sized cases may be carried).
Me: (in exasperation) I don't understand what you want me to do.
Him: You should pay £10 more.
Me: Fine.
Him: No, I don't want your money.
Me: Look, I've just come all the way from Egypt, my coach didn't arrive, National Express have given me this new ticket, I have to get to Penzance and this is the last coach available today, I'm by myself and I have this luggage.
Him: I'm not saying you can't get on, but from now understand the rules.
(He starts taking the luggage, I move towards the coach to board)
Him: Oh no, you're not taking that.
Me: What?
Him: That
Me: But this is my carry on.
Him: Not that size it isn't, that's going in the hold.
Me: But it has all my important things in it.
Him: So, get them out.
(He stands over me whilst I scramble to get things out of the bag trying to think of the most important items, then he takes the bag and I board the bus)

As we set off he does the microphoned introduction to the bus, 'Hello everybody, my name is Alvin and I'm your driver for today.' he then guides us through the coach's safety features and the stops we will make and at what times.

Well, Alvin, I think, you've got it coming. I muse about Alvin and his patriarchal control, how insecure he must be, behind his pasty faced appearance and his polished shoes he's a man scared of women. I see how he jokes with the flirtatious older woman, how he speaks with an element of respect to male colleagues, but with me he didn't know how to be in tandem. Yes, Alvin, I think, because I'm more intelligent than you, better looking than you and got more going on than you. I can see this type of man is the type to eat the boiled egg his ageing mother gives him but to always wish she'd be more house proud, he's the type that uses disinfected wet wipes to clean himself, he was probably bullied at school and now assumes some level of control over luggage amounts in his low brow job.

I go in and out of sleep, unable to find a comfortable position because my travel pillow is trapped in the hold and so I continue to enjoy my hate towards Alvin. How come he has that name anyway? He's some southern English white guy in his early 40s – the name and he do not fit. Since I have only ever heard of one other person with this name, the performer Alvin Stardust, I decide to name him Alvin Stardeath.

Then Alvin tells us all that he is getting off at Exeter and we will have another driver. Great, I think, I'll ask the other driver to let me have my carry on bag. The other driver is a wiry Cornishman who has no problem at all in getting my bag for me out of the hold and so I could finally relax as we went through every town in south west England, counting the hours in the darkness of night. I was momentarily disturbed by some Latvians eating fish sandwiches and a chavvy Cornish girl talking on her phone for about 20 minutes to some idiot about their Facebook statuses, but all in all I was glad that after 21 hours of travel I was now approaching my new home and the beauty of the sea that was waiting in its wide welcome.

The Monkees

I think it was about 1990 and I was living in Manchester with my crazed musician/sound engineer boyfriend (who later joined The Fall and Elastica). It was towards the end of our 5 year relationship – though at the time we didn't know that. He was very excited because The Monkees were coming to town on a comeback tour (they have had more comebacks since) and we had been invited to the VIP party. Those formative years of mine were spent at many 'in' parties and I knew and hung out at times with The Stone Roses (they were not yet famous) and frequented the Hacienda and saw Happy Mondays win the Battle of the Bands (a scene later shown in the film about the time). Anyway, I digress..

So, we went along to the venue in the city centre, I had wanted a friend to come too but Dave hadn't allowed it as he said 'She has bad teeth'.. Yes, he was that far gone. As we walked up the red carpet Dave was clutching my hand tightly and saying through clenched teeth things like 'Don't embarrass me when we're in there'. He had always had this notion that I was a liability.

We got up to the VIP area – which was an entire 3rd floor of the club with a huge glass dancefloor. As we entered the bar area, Dave said he had to go to the bathroom and that I shouldn't move or talk to anyone whilst he was gone. As soon as he was out of sight I went to the bar and I saw a man getting a bottle of champagne on ice; I asked the barman what drinks they had and the prices and he laughed and said it was all free and I could have anything I wanted. So I said 'I'd like a bottle of champagne, please.' I looked around and saw I had been observed by 3 guys and they put their glasses up to cheer me and laughed and they motioned for me to come over. Having nothing else to do I went to their table and they told me they liked my style and we started drinking and chatting. They asked me if I was alone and I told them about Dave and how he was always trying to control me and they laughed more and then one of them started talking about 'Davy' and how he was being weird and then at this point Dave came into view and his face dropped and froze and he just stared over at me in horror and then at this point I looked around at the guys and I was like – 'Oh my god, you're The Monkees, right?' And they all laughed and they got me more champagne and then Like a Virgin by Madonna started playing and this sheikh suddenly appeared and got hold of my hand and took me to the glass dancefloor and we rocked out.

It was a hilarious night.

Minotaur (synopsis for script)
Set in modern day Paris. Daytime. Two white minotaurs are running across the city. The Seine becomes a river of fire. At sudden moments the Metro becomes a channel of raging water and a silver streak appears and then disappears within the crashing water that has consumed & replaced the carriage. The Merman appears. Powerful, almost a minotaur of the water, and random people are plucked into the Merman's realm.

The mythical scenes set in a contemporary daytime scene heighten the surreality and impact of the images. People are going around their everyday business which is interrupted, deviated, thrown into chaos by the energy of the beasts. The Metro becoming water is the Underworld dreamscape, the Seine becoming fire is the Overworld order being changed, revealing the unmanagable. The two minotaurs running in mirrored effect show there is no escape, there can be avoidance but the beast is there at all times. The Minotaur was borne from the union of a white bull that rose from the sea and a woman, Pasiphae the queen of Crete, the consort to Minos the king. Therefore the idea of a merman below and a minotaur above is indicative of that.


After Midnight Conversations

i think you can turn the silence and the darkness into something potent

even the darkness - imagined as a force - as a body - can be most arousing

like a dark silk fabric licking the skin


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